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September 14, 2012

Grazing: Fried Padron Peppers at Pistou, a New Favorite Thing

Pistou is just down the street from the Seven Days office, but I don't go there nearly enough. With so many places to hit up for work, and home more than an hour away, it's hard to return to favorites with any regularity. 

The other day,  though, I learned that Jason Zuliani of Dedalus Wine had a hand in the recent retooling of Pistou's wine list, and I was curious to check it out before heading to dinner elsewhere. (A glass of wine with a quick snack is my favorite pre-prandial sport.)

The list has an Old World focus, mingled with some new biodynamic and organic wines. Both are well suited to the fare here, which can be earthy and light, classic and eclectic at once. It was a warm night, so I picked out a 2011 Terres Dorees Beaujolais Blanc and turned to the menu. Fried padron peppers? I'd heard of them — were they like pimientos? The peppers came with an eggplant-garlic puree and "chickpeas." Trust in chef Max MacKinnon was called for.

What arrived was an almost sculptural arrangement of tiny, green, papery-looking things. Singed slightly on their edges and curled in on themselves, the padrons glistened with a touch of oil. They came from Intervale's Half Pint Farm, where Mara and Spencer Welton raise a mélange of heirloom and eclectic things most of us might not ever grow at home.

Each bite-sized pepper broke and burst in the mouth with smoky sweetness — but occasionally, one released a dose of heat. "I'm told maybe one in 10 are hot," said co-owner Maji Chien, who runs the front of the house. Alongside the earthy eggplant puree and topped with a nutty crumble from what looked like a chickpea fritter, each bite had percussive, jangling flavors. The crisp Beaujalois Blanc — a citrusy, steel-aged Chardonnay with deeper notes of hazelnuts and pear — was luscious on its own, but also stood up well to all the personalities on the plate.

Chien didn't know how much longer the peppers would last on Pistou's constantly changing menu. They'd been on two days, she reported, but who knows?

Padrons are as fleeting as this spectacular weather, so get them while you can. 


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